Bonn, Germany: In the African nation of Niger, children in the regions of Dosso, Tahoua and Tillabéry are receiving the foundations of a good education, thanks in part to a kindergarten project launched by UNDP/UNV Niger and financed by Japan. Kindergartens in each region, established with the support of the communities and the Ministry of Education, are providing an early learning environment for some 800 children. Aged three to six years, they are being taught in areas such as basic literacy skills, mathematics and proper hygiene. Already, the value of early education is apparent. On joining primary school, these children demonstrate a greater aptitude to learn and absorb. Parents too recognize this. As well as taking part in the courses themselves, they are supporting their children by volunteering to prepare meals, clean the grounds and maintain the school buildings.
Every weekend the rooms of Pho Sai temple in the Laotian capital of Vientiane are filled with the sounds of children laughing and singing. They are there to play, make friends, and most importantly to learn. Teaching the children are 12 dedicated volunteers who gather at the temple to provide the disadvantaged children, aged 5 to 14, with a quality education. The brainchild of UN Volunteer Avi Sarkar from India, the weekend school reaches out to more than 200 children who learn about Laotian music, culture and history. And before returning home, the children eat a healthy meal, which, again, is provided by volunteers. The volunteer spirit also touches others in the community. Several doctors and nurses from the local hospital are holding free health clinics for the children and their families. Since the school’s start in 2002, Avi estimates more than 1,000 children have attended. “This temple school is about self help, mutual aid, and service to the community,” he says.
Education is also about fuelling women’s empowerment in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. UN Volunteer Samah Jaouny works in her home country as a programme assistant with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to mobilize and promote Palestinian women’s participation in the social, economic and political spheres of their communities. Concentrating on rural women in the northern West Bank villages of Allar and Talfeet, she helps coordinate vocational schooling in the local women’s centres. Here, women take courses in computer skills or work towards their Tawjihi, or high school diploma. The initiative Samah is most proud of is the start-up of the women’s centre in Talfeet. With the mayor’s support, more than 300 women are taking part in the centre’s activities. “The centres have created a new sense of hope in the community,” she says. “I am proud that we have created a real difference in the women’s lives.”
Through UNV’s Online Volunteering service, volunteers continue to demonstrate how they can share their technical skills and expertise via the Internet to improve the socio-economic situation for women. In Afghanistan, an online volunteer’s guidance on creating an effective business plan is helping a Kabul-based NGO cultivate a small income-generation project in textile fabrication for more than 60 women; while two friends in Buenos Aires, Argentina, are joining forces to assist a women-led catering business in Tamil Nadu, India, to rework its business plan to increase output and profitability.
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